Miguel Vasco is Executive Director at Destinature -Agency for the Development of Nature Tourism- in Portugal, dedicated to the promotion of the central region of this beautiful soft-living country and its natural jewels.
iNature is hosting with Destinature the IV International Congress Forests and Its Potential for Health in Luso, which Miguel finds a great opportunity “to set an agenda that is ruled by nature”, a topic not far from his own life: he was born in a place with the view of the tallest mountain of Portugal: “Serra da Estrela was always part of the horizon. And I always need to see rising on the horizon”.
This cinema lover -especially Sofia Coppola’s and Stanley Kubrick’s films- learnt to speak English watching movies and to talk Spanish watching TV. And he comes to the interview just after having been exploring subway caves with his partners, in some mountain in the central region of Portugal.
The importance of networking
“For us, being the network that is promoting the Congress taking place in Portugal is a great opportunity to set an agenda that is ruled by nature. And ruled in a sense that we are working on a project of territorial development that is based on the natural values of the territory, that goes much further than tourism.
“And I think now is the right time to set some ambitious objectives on an agenda that crosses tourism, health, nature, wellbeing, green jobs, and thinking about the challenges that the climate change is putting upon our society, this can be a way of organizing the entities and private and public agents in a common ground to work upon nature in a sustainable way, not just using it as a resource of production.
“This Congress will present this working vision of our network in the center region of Portugal of 12 natural areas, and how the diversity of landscapes and resources can be worked in a unique sense of cooperation for innovating, putting the diversity of the territory working in a complementary way.
“The global proposal of value in this region can go much further: we complement all regions trying to come across as a unique brand of value built from the natural values of the region for ecotourism, for the ecosystem services that they allow, the quality of life they allow for society, and the importance of giving back to nature the life it allows as to have, and the quality of life that allows this particular region to have.
“I started studying Tourism Planning and Management mainly focused on culture areas, events, promotions, and later I even worked at the Museum of Moving Image and I was always very connected with events and film festivals. I came across the iNature project and it was a proposal that came across my way.
“My involvement with nature started as a professional condition, like the kickstart of my relationship with nature. But I was born in Castelo Branco, in the main region of Portugal. During my studies I went to different places, but from where I always went in my childhood, we could always see the biggest mountain of Portugal, Serra da Estrela (“star hill”). Fundão is over a hill in front of Serra da Estrela, and it was always part of the horizon. I always need to see something on the horizon.
“The first memory that came across was being up there with my parents enjoying tasteful picnics and then having the chance to explore by myself some of the places, the wildlife, the vegetation. It was a nice time. I even recall there was a time where there was a lack of regulation, and back then nature was more a resource for leisure fully dependent on people, if they would respect it or not. And for some people that was possible, while having leisure time.
“I am definitely someone that enjoys nature and likes to spend time contemplating the landscapes. In the mountains or at the coast. That’s an important time of calming down and putting things in order. Just gazing or looking at the horizon”.
Forest Bathing and landscapes for everyone
“We have been working on a campaign of promotion of our different areas. This diversity of landscapes allows us to attend to different motivations of demand. If you like trekking and hiking, you definitely have some excellent places for that, but also if you are looking for a quiet place, a picnic near the river, and Forest Therapy, there are already some offers there for you. We work upon this region as a better place to live for its natural landscapes.
“We represent over 200 public and private agents so that’s a huge challenge, working on the setting of new products to which forest bathing and health practices are related. We have been visiting caves in one of the areas. We came out of the office, went hiking and explored the cave. That’s our purpose, to share that joy and the experience of having nature near us”.